I am voting for Barack Obama. So should you.

Am I pleased with Obama’s Presidency?  For the most part, I am.

Of course, I have plenty with which I am displeased.  The President promised the most transparent administration in history, yet his administration has used the State’s Secrets privilege to a greater and much further reaching extent than his predecessor.  His excuse has been…

But keep in mind what happens, is we come in to office. We’re in for a week, and suddenly we’ve got a court filing that’s coming up. And so we don’t have the time to effectively think through, what exactly should an overarching reform of that doctrine take? We’ve got to respond to the immediate case in front of us.

This is a flat out lie.  The Obama DoJ has argued for the broadest use of the SSP in response to every legal challenge on the matter that has come up.

Obama said he would “filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies”, and then he supported the FISA bill extension that did precisely that.  Then, when it was challenged, he wanted it dismissed. Later, the President supported its extension.

Before his 2008 election Obama talked about putting an end to torture, yet he the DoJ under Obama has prosecuted the whistle blowers on American torture and never, ever the perpetrators, even though the US is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture, which obligates us to prosecute anyone who orders or engages in torture regardless of the reason. The argument has been that it’s important to look forward rather than backward, but then why prosecute the whistle blowers?

In his 2008 campaign, Obama argued for civil trials for terror suspects, yet he has asked for the power of indefinite detention and military tribunals for many terror suspects.

Obama then issued an executive order against nations doing the exact same thing.

He also signed the National Defense Authorization Act.  I’m actually not angry at Obama for signing it.  The NDAA is not a single measure, it is our defense budget.  It’s how our troops get paid.  Last year the NDAA was obstructed until the end the year, which gave the President no real option but to sign it as it was – otherwise our troops wouldn’t have gotten paid.  When signing it, the President griped about the indefinite detention portion.

But then he fought for it.  His DoJ is still fighting for itThat’s what I’m pissed about.

The list could go on, but you get the gist.  So if I’m so pissed off, why am I voting for the guy?  Why do I still feel mostly pleased with his presidency?  Even though I know tons of people in my own life who I think would make a better President than Barack Obama, why would I vote for him?  That is the subject of this fairly lengthy post.

Romney will be no better on torture

Mitt Romney supports the use of torture.  So I have no illusions that voting not voting for Barack Obama will change that.

In one of his first acts, President Obama issued an executive order restricting interrogators to a list of nonabusive tactics approved in the Army Field Manual. Even as he embraced a hawkish approach to other counterterrorism issues — like drone strikes, military commissions, indefinite detention and the Patriot Act — Mr. Obama has stuck to that strict no-torture policy.

By contrast, Mr. Romney’s advisers have privately urged him to “rescind and replace President Obama’s executive order” and permit secret “enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generating intelligence to save American lives,” according to an internal Romney campaign memorandum.

While the memo is a policy proposal drafted by Mr. Romney’s advisers in September 2011, and not a final decision by him, its detailed analysis dovetails with his rare and limited public comments about interrogation.

“We’ll use enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now,” he said at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., in December.

And if a candidate wants to utilize torture, you can be damn sure he’ll be no friend to transparency.  I see no reason to believe that Romney will do better with the State’s Secrets Privilege.

If Romney will not fix the gripes I have with Obama, then they are a wash in the election, and I must examine other criteria to determine which candidate is better.

The Supreme Court

The next President will likely get to appoint at least one, but possibly two Justices to the Supreme Court for life terms.  This could even increase if Ginsburg elects to retire (which she likely would if Obama were re-elected).  If Romney gets these picks, you can kiss the legal fight for gay rights goodbye for a decade.

Romney picks would almost certainly join Antonin Scalia in attempting to eradicate the separation of church and state.

Even if you’re the type who wonders why you should bother voting since both candidates/parties are the same (which is a demonstrable falsehood), if you care about gay rights or keeping religion out of government, not only in our generation but also in the one growing up right now, you cannot watch this election with apathy.  You should vote for Obama, not because you believe he will be a better President than Mitt Romney, but because you care about gay people and their rights and the Justices Obama appoints will serve the Constitution in those regards rather than their religious ideologies.

Foreign Policy

The difference in skill between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama could not be greater.  Despite my disappointments with Obama in other areas, I cannot deny that he has been a spectacular diplomat for the United States.  The world despised us after Bush’s presidency, and much of that has been rectified.

Here’s the global opinion of the US during the Bush years.

Graph showing how opinion of the US declined.

And now, if the world were to vote for our President, Obama would win with almost 80% of the popular vote. Countries represented as favoring Obama include (from strongest supporters to weakest):

  • Germany
  • France
  • Australia
  • UK
  • India
  • Malaysia
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • Sweden
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Costa Rica
  • Columbia
  • Denmark

Countries described as having mixed or Romney-leaning views are:

  • Russia
  • Israel
  • Poland
  • Pakistan

Other nations love the President.  This is likely why the attacks on diplomatic targets under Obama are extremely low.

Conversely, Mitt Romney can’t seem to leave the country without pissing off our allies.  And Romney’s foreign policy is outright ignorant.  Hell, Romney’s knowledge of foreign anything seems lacking.

Oh, and then there’s the abysmal ignorance from Romney:

Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.

Say what? Iran is on the fucking ocean, with almost 2500 kilometers of coastline on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Syria has less than 200 kilometers of coastline on the Mediterranean. And Iraq is in between the two countries, so Iran couldn’t get anything to Syrian ports without shipping it through Iraq (which they can’t do).


Map of the Middle East.

In the third debate, the guy even agreed with much of Obama’s policies before decrying them as horrible and talking about how he was going to change them.  I mean fuck, Romney wants to give the military $2 trillion that they didn’t even ask for (and which the Pentagon says they don’t really need).  Yet, Mitt Romney will be the first to criticize Obama for “wasteful spending.”

Obama has his faults.  He is not perfect with foreign policy (drone strikes, anyone?).  But you must admit that the guy’s done a lot for us in that department and he is one hell of a diplomat.  In one term he’s got the world back to not hating us and, in most cases, the world really loves our present leader.  When the world likes our leader, they’re less likely to do dick things like attack our embassies.

And even if Barack Obama wasn’t a stellar diplomat, that doesn’t mean we should automatically pick Romney.  And I think it’s obvious that Obama would have to be pretty damn bad before we handed the reins of our foreign relations to a bumbling oaf like Mitt Romney.

Economic Plans

Romney with huge sacks of money...and a monocle.Romney and Ryan are still insisting that they can cut taxes 20% across the board, repeal the estate tax, and repeal the alternative minimum tax without increasing the deficit or without increasing taxes even more on the middle class (which already shoulders the brunt of the tax burden).  The most reliable study on the matter comes from the non-partisan Tax Policy Center.  In keeping with his strategy of not knowing where the fuck he stands on an issue, Romney has both cited the TPC as a reliable source (just the other day, but also in criticizing Rick Santorum in the primaries, at which time he referred to them as “an objective, third-party source”) and has also disavowed them as a biased, liberal think-tank when they pointed out that his financial plan was mathematically impossible (or, as laymen would call it, a “lie”).

Anyway, the rebuttal from the Romney campaign is that six studies confirm that his plan would work.  Josh Barro is having none of it.

They say they have six independent studies — six! — that “have confirmed the soundness of the Governor’s tax plan,” and so I should stop whining.  Let’s take a tour of those studies and see how they measure up.

The Romney campaign sent over a list of the studies, but they are perhaps more accurately described as “analyses,” since four of them are blog posts or op-eds. I’m not hating — I blog for a living — but I don’t generally describe my posts as “studies.”

Snap.  And the hits from Barro keep coming.  He goes in depth on all the blog posts and one the lone actual study supporting Romney’s tax plan which came from former Bush adviser Harvey Rosen, which is hardly bipartisan.

Romney’s defense of his 20% tax cut for the wealthy is that he’ll remove their entitlements so that they wind up paying the same amount.  Forgetting for a moment that all reliable studies have confirmed that this would be mathematically impossible (without running in the red), it raises an obvious question.

Colbert had a moderately funny clip the other night that asked a really good question.

RED-TIE STEPHEN: Hey, he is looking out for the middle class.

BLUE-TIE STEPHEN: He’s promising a 20% tax cut for the top 1%.

RED-TIE STEPHEN: Ah, but he’s also promising to close their tax loopholes, so they’ll still pay the same amount.

BLUE-TIE STEPHEN: Then… why cut their taxes?

The Congressional Research Service released a study in September of this year confirming that tax cuts do not stimulate the economy.

Even without that study, history itself has shown that cutting income taxes for the wealthy, which is the record of both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, does not stimulate the economy.

The top income tax rates have changed considerably since the end of World War II. Throughout the late-1940s and 1950s, the top marginal tax rate was typically above 90%; today it is 35%. Additionally, the top capital gains tax rate was 25% in the 1950s and 1960s, 35% in the 1970s; today it is 15%. The average tax rate faced by the top 0.01% of taxpayers was above 40% until the mid-1980s; today it is below 25%. Tax rates affecting taxpayers at the top of the income distribution are currently at their lowest levels since the end of the second World War.

The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie.

However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. As measured by IRS data, the share of income accruing to the top 0.1% of U.S. families increased from 4.2% in 1945 to 12.3% by 2007 before falling to 9.2% due to the 2007-2009 recession. At the same time, the average tax rate paid by the top 0.1% fell from over 50% in 1945 to about 25% in 2009. Tax policy could have a relation to how the economic pie is sliced—lower top tax rates may be associated with greater income disparities.

If you think Romney has changed gears, look no further than the people he appoints. Harold Hamm is the CEO of Continental Resources and Romney’s Chief Energy Adviser.  He recently went before Congress to complain about the tax rate on his company.

These same tax provisions not only allowed us to survive the disastrous years of OPEC dominance and decades of sub-economic oil and gas prices here in America, but most importantly, they allowed us to try new things and fail, and try again and fail, until we finally succeeded in “breaking the code” to produce the vast resource plays (even the source rocks themselves) like the Bakken in Montana and North Dakota. Continental’s effective tax rate is 38%!

But this figure of 38% is not even in the same universe as what he actually paid. Continental’s effective tax rate over the last two years, during which they made just under two billion dollars in profits, was 3.2%. The lowest they paid during that time was 0.1% (yes, that decimal point is in the right place).  And Hamm’s argument is that o.1% effective tax rate is too high.  Make no mistake: it is, and always has been, about protecting the wealthy and their interests.  This is why, to this day, the middle class shoulders most of the tax burden.

While tax cuts for the wealthy are ineffective at boosting the economy, they do, however, have a tremendous impact on income inequality.  Look at what happened to wealth disparity around the time of the Bush tax cuts (which Romney, who insists he is not like George W. Bush policy-wise, wants to extend).

The bottom line is that taxes will go up for the middle class, which already shoulders the brunt of the tax burden, regardless of who you elect.  But Romney’s tax plan would increase taxes on the middle class by more, and would undoubtedly do so to increase the resource divide in this country.

Why should we expect otherwise?  Mitt Romney’s whole career is a testament to increasing his own flourishing at the expense of others.  From his sweatshop in China to Mitt’s career in private equity firms, Mitt Romney has demonstrated that he is a man who cares about making money for himself, regardless of who he must step on in the process.

Conversely, with his insistence on education and on the rich paying more in taxes, it is clear that Obama at least cares about every American, including the 47%.

When the Obama campaign points out that five million jobs have been created in the last 30 months, the response is that 4.3 million jobs were lost in Obama’s first year and a half.  Nobody seems to point out that the economy was in free fall at that point; a free fall that was caused by a President and a lockstep GOP congress doing the exact same things that Mitt Romney wants to do.  We are recovering, and as Obama’s measures have taken effect we’re now seeing jobs being created as fast as we were losing them at the end of Bush’s second term.

There are plenty of other areas that illustrate that Obama has our economy on the right track, and growing tremendously after the clusterfuck he was handed upon entering office.

All three major home price indices are up and the 30-year mortgage rate is at an all-time low.  This combination of home price appreciation and low rates has allowed more homeowners to refinance, lowering average annual mortgage payments by around $2,200.  Housing starts got a big pop this AM, hitting their strongest stride since 2008, and while the monthly data are volatile, there are signs that the inventory overhang in housing is much diminished.

Last month, auto sales hit a four year high, with annualized sales just below 15 million, the highest sales count March 2008.  Since GM and Chrysler have emerged from their government-structured bankruptcy, the industry’s added almost 250,000 jobs.

Obama has also been the smallest federal spender as President since Eisenhower.

Courtesy of Marketwatch-

  • In fiscal 2010 (the first Obama budget) spending fell 1.8% to $3.46 trillion.
  •  In fiscal 2011, spending rose 4.3% to $3.60 trillion.
  • In fiscal 2012, spending is set to rise 0.7% to $3.63 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the budget that was agreed to last August.
  • Finally in fiscal 2013 — the final budget of Obama’s term — spending is scheduled to fall 1.3% to $3.58 trillion. Read the CBO’s latest budget outlook.

No doubt, many will wish to give the credit to the efforts of the GOP controlled House of Representatives. That’s fine if that’s what works for you.

However, you don’t get to have it both ways. Credit whom you will, but if you are truly interested in a fair analysis of the Obama years to date—at least when it comes to spending—you’re going to have to acknowledge that under the Obama watch, even President Reagan would have to give our current president a thumbs up when it comes to his record for stretching a dollar.

What’s more, the unemployment rate was skyrocketing as Obama took office, and it’s now below 8%.  When Mitt Romney says we’re losing jobs, he’s just full of shit.  At best, he’s pointing to the jobs that were lost in the early part of Obama’s presidency when Obama was just starting to undo the fuck ups of the Bush administration.  Romney cannot point to the last 2/3 of Obama’s term when speaking about the unemployment rate and the creation of jobs, because Obama has actually been kicking ass.

As for the Romney campaign’s claim that they will create 12 million jobs in 4 years, see the following section.

Vice President Candidates

 Staying with the economy thing, Paul Ryan is presented by Romney supporters as an expert on economics.  He’s not.  Let’s forget, for a moment, Paul Ryan’s numerous failings such as his dishonesty (no, really), his behavior that is, shall we say, not very intelligent, his utter cluelessness about foreign policy, and just talk about Ryan’s knowledge of economics (and what we can know of Paul Ryan when he’s not lying his ass off about economics).

First, he claims his plan will create 12 million jobs.  Pretty much every media outlet has pointed out that these were what we could expect regardless of who was in office (thanks to the Obama administration recovering the economy).

As we have noted before, the 12 million figure is not a bad bet by Romney. Moody’s Analytics, in an August forecast, predicts 12 million jobs will be created by 2016, no matter who is president. And Macroeconomic Advisors in April also predicted a gain of 12.3 million jobs.

What’s more, the studies he and Romney use to get that number are from different sources.

We asked the Romney campaign, and the answer turns out to be: totally different studies … with completely different timelines.

For instance, the claim that 7 million jobs would be created from Romney’s tax plan is a 10-year number, derived from a study written by John W. Diamond, a professor at Rice University.

This study at least assesses the claimed effect of specific Romney policies. The rest of the numbers are even more squishy.

For instance, the 3-million-jobs claim for Romney’s energy policies appears largely based on aCitigroup Global Markets study that did not even evaluate Romney’s policies. Instead, the report predicted 2.7 million to 3.6 million jobs would be created over the next eight years, largely because of trends and policies already adopted — including tougher fuel efficiency standards that Romneyhas criticized and suggested he would reverse.

The 2-million-jobs claim from cracking down on China is also very suspicious.

This figure comes from a 2011 International Trade Commission report, which estimated that there could be a gain of 2.1 million jobs if China stopped infringing on U.S. intellectual property rights. The estimate is highly conditional and pegged to the job market in 2011, when there was high unemployment. “It is unclear when China might implement  the improvement in IPR protection envisioned in the analysis, and equally unclear whether the United States will face as much excess labor supply then as it does today,” the report says.

The Romney campaign has already used this study, in a misleading way, to claim that Obama’s China “policies cost us 2 million jobs.” Now the campaign has just taken the same figure and credited the claimed job gain to itself, even though the report does not examine any of Romney’s proposed policies.

This is not the product of an economics genius.  This is someone who can’t realize when studies address different things.

Let’s also not forget that Ryan is incredibly inconsistent when it comes to economic decisions.  For instance, Ryan engages in the same pork spending he derides in, well, pretty much everybody but himself.

Let’s also not forget that even though Ryan promises that his tax plan will be revenue neutral (if only he had time to explain how) quite literally all neutral party sources have said it’s mathematically impossible without raising taxes on the middle class.   This is compounded by what I discussed earlier: that tax cuts have historically not stimulated the economy, and tax cuts for the rich, which saturate Paul Ryan’s record, have been notoriously bad for it (though good for the rich).  Yet, Ryan seems to be gay-married to that strategy.

The best Ryan seems to be able to do is to try and fib about what the experts think (see the six “studies” Ryan claims support his economic plan and be grateful that sometimes Ryan’s GOP cohorts can be honest).  A good example is Ryan’s insistence that a group of Harvard economists approve of his voucher program for medicare.  The result was one of the authors of the study getting mad at them for saying that the study said the exact opposite of what it said.

Supporters for the Romney-Ryan approach to Medicare have a new talking point. They say a new study by “three liberal Harvard economists” proves that the plan’s competition will reduce health care costs without harming beneficiaries. But the study doesn’t say that.

And I should know. I’m one of the economists who wrote it.

Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have said they would like to convert Medicare into a “premium support” (nee voucher) system. Their plans are different, and Ryan himself has proposed several versions. But they share a basic architecture. Starting ten years from now, new retirees would not receive a Medicare card, as they would today. Instead, they would receive a voucher and shop for an insurance policy in a specially regulated market…

How would this affect seniors? In particular, how many seniors would end up paying more to stay in traditional Medicare?

That’s the question that Zirui Song, Mikchael Chernew, and I set out to answer in the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. To do this, we examined what would have happened if, today, something like the Romney-Ryan plan were in place: In other words, if today’s seniors were getting vouchers, how much would those vouchers be worth?

We found that 24 million seniors, or about two-thirds of the people presently enrolled in the traditional Medicare program, would have to pay more—specifically, an average of $64 per month or $768 per year. Some seniors already enroll in private plans, as part of the “Medicare Advantage” option that has existed, in one form or another, for many years. About 7 million seniors or more than 90 percent of that group would have to pay more.


First, it confuses costs and payments. Medicare Advantage plans bid less than traditional Medicare, but they are paid more. The plans are officially supposed to use these higher payments to sweeten the pot—add additional benefits, reduce cost sharing, and the like—though some likely go for profit as well. This is why the Affordable Care Act reduced the amount that the government pays to managed care plans, over howls of protest from conservatives. Bidding less does no good for the program if the government then overpays relative to what was bid.

Second, they miss a key part of the reason why the Congressional Budget Office estimated that Ryan’s voucher proposal would cost seniors more. Medicare Advantage plans can only cost what they do because the traditional Medicare program is in place to help them. Specifically, Medicare sets very low payment rates to providers, and Medicare Advantage plans bargain up a bit from those rates. Get rid of the traditional Medicare program, or even reduce its enrollment substantially, and the estimated cost of Medicare Advantage premiums skyrockets.

I could keep going, but you get the point.  Economists are advising one strategy, that Paul Ryan knows about, and he is insisting we do the opposite of what the majority of economists think we should.  He is not doing this because he is an economics genius.  He is doing this because it’s the line of his party, because it benefits the wealthy, and because he otherwise doesn’t have a fucking clue.

The prospect of having Paul Ryan as 2nd in line for the presidency is scarcely better than that of Sarah Palin.  His selection reflects strongly, and negatively, on Mitt Romney.

Joe Biden, on the other hand, has been a spectacular diplomat at least and has tons of experience to fall back on.  He has also never washed clean dishes.

The conduct of Republicans

The Republican party has been clear in the last four years: they want to make sure Barack Obama fails.

It has not bothered them that the failure of the President means the failure of the country.  So when I hear all this talk about love of country and patriotism from the Republicans, I don’t buy it.  From their tax plans that make the rich more rich and their knee jerk opposition to the President on every piece of legislation he supports on nothing more than the principle of obstructing him, the conduct of the GOP has shown that they care about themselves above the citizens and above the well-being of the country.

Efforts to block even beneficial legislation in an effort to taint the President’s record have been the GOP’s modus operandi during the last four years.


And the really depressing part is that for many Americans, this has worked.  As the Romney campaign has droned that Obama “hasn’t done anything” somehow many Americans have blamed the President, rather than the relentless (and proud) obstruction by the GOP, for those bills not going through.  This is not the conduct of people looking out for the nation and its citizens.  They should be punished, not rewarded, for this.

I have no wish to let people like this anywhere close to positions of power.

The way the campaigns have been conducted

The Romney campaign has been splattered with elementary mistakes and cynical goofs.

The most notable is when VP candidate Paul Ryan barged into a soup kitchen, not to help feed the needy, but to pose as though he was helping in an effort to get votes.  The Obama campaign has relied on the work they’ve done, not the work they have pretended to do.

It should also be noted that Paul Ryan’s antics actually wound up harming the soup kitchen’s ability to feed the poor.

And then you have Mitt Romney’s refusal to condemn Richard Mourdock.


You know that sequestration bill?  Paul Ryan hated it!  He even chastised Joe Biden for it in the Vice Presidential debate.

“Of all the things that Mitt Romney and I differ, disagree with President Obama – we need a strong military!” Ryan said. “We believe in peace through strength. We believe that when America’s military is strong, America is safer.

“These defense cuts that he is promising, these devastating defense cuts that he is promising not only undermine our peace, not only undermine our security, they compromise jobs right here,” he said.

But Ryan didn’t hate it quite as much…when he was voting for it.

“The Budget Control Act represents a victory for those committed to controlling government spending and growing our economy. I applaud Speaker Boehner’s leadership in stopping tax increases on job creators, rejecting President Obama’s demands for a blank check to keep borrowing, and advancing real spending cuts and controls.

When Ryan was voting for the bill he was reigning in out-of-control spending.  In the VP debate though, it was all about how Obama wants to weaken our military.  When a candidate does stuff like this, it not only says a tremendous amount about the candidate, it says a tremendous amount about what they think of their constituents.  Paul Ryan is counting on people to be politically uninformed so he can get away with this, and he’s counting on those uninformed people to vote.

Add to that a host of gaffs like Romney having no idea what Middle East geography looks like (Syria is not Iran’s path to the sea) while he reaches for the office of highest diplomacy, and also add his ever-morphing position on, well, everything depending upon what he thinks his audience wants to hear (unless you think he magically became moderate and isn’t pandering to swing voters because his campaign was getting crushed in the early going because of his hard right stances and appointment of tea party hero Paul Ryan), and you clearly have a candidate that is more concerned with posing for voters rather than winning through their actual ideas or through their actual behavior.  You have a campaign that panders to the uninformed, and when a candidate or a political party doesn’t want people to be informed (see: GOP’s history of axing funding for education), then we have a problem.

Romney’s campaign has been run incompetently and immorally.  That won’t matter to the people who think that Romney loves Jesus more than Obama, and who value that trait over any semblance of basic competence or dignity, but for me, I think a candidate should be able to run a campaign with a modicum of integrity and intelligence before we trust him to run the country.

Why not vote for a third party?

So if I have gripes with Obama and I have nightmares about a Romney presidency, why not vote for a third party?

Trust me, if I could have Jill Stein in the White House, I would.  I’m not going to vote for her because it will not change the outcome.  Reality does not conform to our sense of hope and optimism in the same fashion as enticing delusions like faith.  But we must always bow to reality in order to make wise decisions, and the reality is that either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is going to be the next President of the United States.  Voting for Jill Stein would be like paying for a product and not receiving it.

Is that cynical?  Yes.  And I feel dirty for it.  Reality can have that effect.

Here’s what I suggest.  If you live in a state that is already decided (California, Texas, etc.), vote third party.  Why?  Because in 1992 Ross Perot won 19% of the popular vote as a third party candidate, and that was not meaningless.  If forced the two dominant parties to realize that the people were pissed off.  That led to bi-partisan efforts that undoubtedly contributed to Bill Clinton’s success.  Even if it’s unrealistic to expect a third party candidate to win, at least for the time being, I believe sending that message is still important.  Is it a perfect fix?  No, but it’s something to do in the meantime that doesn’t carry the risk of pissed away votes in swing states opening the door for the lesser of the two candidates with a legitimate shot at winning this year.

I live in Ohio.  My vote will have a huge impact on who actually winds up in the Oval Office, and it cannot be Mitt Romney with Paul Ryan a heartbeat away.


In terms of competence and integrity, this race is not even close.  There is literally no good reason to vote for the Romney/Ryan ticket and tons of reasons to vote for Obama.  I do not say this as a person who is entirely pleased with Obama.  I do not even say this as someone who thinks Obama is the best candidate in the race (Jill Stein is).

However, in just a few minutes I’m going to walk out the door and vote for Barack Obama.  Those with stunted moral priorities will vote for Romney, rationalizing away his salesman-like sliminess or even convincing themselves that the same policies that made George W. Bush’s presidency a catastrophic failure are not still at the heart of the GOP.  My vote must work in opposition to theirs.

Given the evidence, it is clear that there is no rational choice for me but to pull the lever for Obama.  I do so proudly, knowing that this is the best choice for today.  Tomorrow we’ll focus on how to break the two-party system and how to demand that Obama fix some of his glaring faults.  If you agree with the evidence laid out in this post, I do not see how you could vote any other way.

I am going to vote for Barack Obama.  So should you.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • http://www.geekexile.com Brian Fields

    I mostly agree, but one small correct – It’s not just 2, but possibly up to 4 seats up for grabs in this cycle on the Supreme Court. It’s VITAL Romney is not the person at the helm picking those seats, or it could set progressives back a GENERATION.

    It’s almost certain that Ginsberg will need to step down in the near future, her health is a big issue. Scalia, Kennedy, and Breyer are also getting up in years, although I expect Scalia will hold onto his seat while a liberal president is in office with a vice grip. If this doesn’t terrify progressives, I don’t know what could. That’s 2 liberal justices and one swing vote in the balance.

  • http://iamdanmarshall.com Dan Marshall

    What a GREAT post, JT! Well thought out and researched, direct and to the point. Now, how do I get my conservative friends and family members to actually *read* it? ;)

  • http://spaceghoti.blogspot.com SpaceGhoti

    Nicely done. You touched on most of my reasons for why I’m voting for Barack Obama this election, why I’m not voting for Jill Stein when I’d prefer to (damn the fact that I live in a swing state) and why it’s so vitally important to keep the Republicans away from the reigns of power. They’ve repeatedly demonstrated that they can’t be trusted with authority, and they’re only getting more extreme in their policies.

    I’m not campaigning for Obama the way I did in 2008 because of the disappointments he’s given us. In addition to the reasons you cite (which I agree with), I’ve been highly disappointed by his fetish for bipartisanship, insisting that if he just keeps moving farther to the right the Republicans will be sane enough to meet him in the middle. Only now is he hinting that perhaps he was mistaken, although I don’t have much hope that he’ll push very hard to the left if given another four years.

    But I’d still rather have a center-right government than a far-right government. So again, I’m not going to do anything that might risk a Romney presidency. Even if Joss Whedon thinks it would hasten the arrival of the Zombie Apocalypse.

  • Jaime Wise

    Thanks for the statistics, I found them very useful.

  • Trevor O’Brien

    You’ve summed up points I’ve made in 100 different debates I’ve had with my disillusioned friends on the left in the last year… in a single, thoughtful post. Excellent job, sir.

  • RuQu

    One clarification and one disagreement:
    Clarification: It is quite possible the next president will appoint 4 Supreme Court Justices. Ginsberg is 3 years into a cancer that kills 90% of people within 5 years. Scalia (rabid conservative) and Kennedy (“The Decider” since he is the usual swing vote) are both 76. Breyer (liberal) is 74. Any one of them could die naturally during this next administration even without cancer. Replacing Kennedy, Breyer, or Ginsberg with a conservative is all it would take to have a 100% consistent partisan conservative Court.

    Do not vote for a Third Party over Barrack Obama. I’m stationed in the South right now. Not only on the web, but also on the radio and in person I hear people talk of civil war and violence if Obama “steals this election.” If you don’t listen to conservative radio, the vitriol and hate is higher than I’ve ever heard it. The right has, perhaps inadvertently, spun this too far and an Obama Electoral College win with a Popular Vote loss could be a massive legitimacy crisis.

    Remember how angry liberals were when Bush beat Gore via Supreme Court decision to not recount the ballots? Now add to that the 4 years of “He’s a secret Kenyan Muslim and not really an American” style rhetoric and hate.

    Even if you vote in somewhere solidly blue, I vote absentee to my home state of CA, you should still vote for Obama. Those high population states are where he can really make up the numbers in the popular vote, and a solid popular victory will go a long way to ensuring legitimacy and minimizing the Far Right’s ability to spin this.

  • http://lujlp1.deviantart.com/ lujlp

    ‘m voting for the guy who hasnt claimed the power to kill american citizens without trial or any legislative, or judical oversite

    Also I’d like to point out the blatant dishonesty of giving actual statistical data of the US’s popularity on a simple yes/no scale under Bush (unsorced FYI) and then giving us a list and claiming that the informal internet poll of people choosing between Obama and Romney implying a vote for Obama will restore america to an 80% favorablity rating among the worlds population.

    Because if you read any of that article up to this graph you’d understand that Obama has not only continued
    Bush era civil rights abuse the democrats called criminial in their scope and intent, but he has EXPANDED most of them as well.

    SO ask yourselves this, why does the world at large, and democrats at home, apparently have no problem with Bush’s god awful policies when they are implemented and expanded by a black democrat??

    Seems to me wrong is wrong, no matter the color of a mans skin or political party affiliation

    But maybe thats just me

    • Loqi

      You seem to be completely missing the point of the argument. Either Obama or Romney is going to be the next president. That’s the simple reality of the situation. One is bad, the other is worse. You have the ability to help prevent the worst case scenario. Choosing not to is downright immoral.

      I understand the whole “vote your conscience” thing. I don’t know a single person who is voting for Obama because he’s the candidate that most aligns with their politics and morality. The simple fact is that he’s the best we can do with our current voting system, which all but prevents viable third parties. You’re getting either Obama or Romney, whether you like it or not. We have to deal with reality, not the way we wish the world worked.

      • RuQu

        You don’t know a single person who is voting for Obama because he is the candidate who most aligns with their politics and morality?

        Let’s see if I can think of some places Obama and I align and Romney and I are diametrically opposed:

        1) The Federal Government can create fairer outcomes than State-based outcomes: Check (see differences in Medicaid disbursements and requirements by State. Clearly everyone would have better health if we had a single payer Federal system. Sadly, Obamacare didn’t do this, but it was a move in the right direction)
        2) Income inequality is a problem: Check
        3) Anyone with a high school econ class under their belt knows you don’t cut social spending during a recession: Check
        4) Homosexuals are people too, my friend: Check
        5) …and corporations aren’t: Check
        6) Women should have control over their own medical decisions: check
        7) Liberal Supreme Court appointments: Check
        8) Environmental protections: Check
        9) Ending the two wars Bush started: Check
        10) Decreasing military spending to peacetime levels: Check (and note that my family has served in every war since WW1, my sister and brother-in-law are reservists and I’m active duty)
        11) Ensure care and support for veterans: Check (Obama has been great at this. Inexplicably the Republicans in Congress have opposed veteran care)

        Has he done everything I wanted? No. I’d love to have Guantanamo closed and the Cuban Embargo lifted. I’d love a single payer healthcare system. I’d love an end to the endless wars on terror and drugs. Is he perfect? No. But he has accomplished a remarkable amount for having an obstructionist Congress that has no interest in the well-being of the nation (see JT’s point above on this). I expect an even more liberal agenda from him second term when he doesn’t face a need for re-election.

        • Loqi

          I should be more careful with my wording. Let me try again. In the absolute sense, Obama’s actions do not closely align with my politics. All the things you list are pretty spot on, but that’s only part of the picture. I’d say 50-60%. Maybe 70%, if I’m in a charitable mood. But that’s still not good alignment. The human rights abuses are just too numerous to give him a better score. I won’t really get excited about a candidate until he/she is above the 80% mark and has a realistic shot at winning. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking, but that’s what it would take for me. Most of my circle is in that same boat. In the relative sense, however, I’m happy with Obama. A 60% alignment is still significantly better than Romney’s single digit alignment.

        • Loqi

          I don’t disagree with anything you’ve written. But there’s still that section in which you had to temper your support with the “yes, but…” language, which is what I was trying to point out in my post (perhaps my wording could have been better). If I came up with a scorecard of all the political issues that I care about (weighted by how much I care about them) and then scored Obama, he’d probably get like 60% of the possible points. On an absolute scale, I don’t consider that to be closely aligned to me. On a relative scale, however, his 60% beats the hell out of Romney’s single digit score. I’ll take the “yes, but…” over the “Fuck no” any day.

          • Loqi

            Gah, phone keeps dropping connectivity. It kept my first response queued and submitted it once I had internet again, after I had written and submitted a new response. Sorry about the spamming.

          • RuQu

            I guess that’s where we differ: how we model our own desire to vote for someone.

            I don’t consider a “yes, but” (or “no, but” as was what I actually said) clause to be grounds for not voting for someone. I don’t expect perfect agreement on issues. My wife and I don’t even agree 100% on political issues, nor do my closest friends or my other family members. Why would a random stranger who has to appeal to the center? That’s wildly unrealistic.

            I’m also cognizant of political realities. As a member of the military who has lived with a single payer healthcare system my whole life, and a world traveler who has seen the difference in health outcomes for the poor in the US and abroad, I am a staunch advocate of a single payer system. I’m also aware that the political pushback, and lobbying money, would be too great at this time to allow that. Obamacare is a massive subsidy of the insurance industry, but it’s a good first step. Get everyone covered first, then start whittling away at expenses and increasing efficiency. It’s not what I’d like, but it was politically viable and my preferred policy is not.

            I’m also aware that just as candidates go to the far left and right during primaries and then swing to the middle in the general election, presidents do the opposite. They are usually more moderate their first term. It gives them time to get settled, learn the ropes, etc while not upsetting the centrists. Second term is when they “create their legacy” and that tends to come with a swing to their party’s extreme.

    • Loqi

      Also, your contention that nobody has a problem with the civil rights abuses is simply dishonest. The OP calls them out and decries them, and so does every liberal-minded person in my circle of acquaintences (selection bias, to be sure, but even my anecdata is enough to beat your contention that “nobody” has a problem with it). Unless you aren’t including the OP in your accusation of hypocrisy amongst Democrats (which is valid, it’s conceivable that the author is not a Democrat), but that makes your entire point a giant nonsequitur.

  • Loqi

    With blog posts counting as studies, you have to wonder what the GOP thinks “peer review” is. By Ryan’s standards, WWJTD might count as a respected scientific journal. Just think about how impressive your CV could be, JT!

  • Baal

    Wow, excellent job JT!
    I’ve seen most of it here and there but having it all in one place is useful. I hadn’t seen the graph version of the decrease income for the bottom 60% – a loss of 30% since 1979 is shameful. How much has that loss of consumer buying power hurt the economy? I can’t believe the top line of the graph spend the income the same way – i.e. on food, gas, clothes, healthcare and housing like.

  • Kristen inDallas

    “Trust me, if I could have Jill Stein in the White House, I would. I’m not going to vote for her because it will not change the outcome. Reality does not conform to our sense of hope and optimism in the same fashion as enticing delusions like faith. But we must always bow to reality in order to make wise decisions…”

    The reality though is, that as insignificant a chance as Jill Stein has to win, the odds of your one vote making the difference between Romney and Obama are equally insignificant. Yes there are states that given the workings of the electoral college have more significance that others, but a vote for Stein (or whatever 3rd Party) is also more significant in those states. one vote, mathemeatically speaking, is as significant as it is (which is hardly at all), regardless of what party it is cast for. Stein only has a shot at anything if large blocks of people vote the same way as you. But similarly, Obama only has a chance at losing specifically because of the Stein vote, if a large block of people vote the same way as you.

    Anyway, I pretty much agree with everything else you’ve written here about Robamney. I just don’t agree with the conclusion. I’m a firm believer that “you are what you eat” (in a sense) and I just can’t stomache any more of this Gitmo/torture/drone warfare style of government that both parties seem to represent.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymiller Ashley F. Miller

    Third party voting will also get them funding if they break 5% of the vote nationally.

  • Daniel Schealler

    Reminds me of an old idea about democracy. I read about this somewhere, but I don’t remember where exactly.

    The idea was that everyone should get two votes. One positive, the other negative.

    The idea is that it makes third party candidates more likely to get in. Instead of voting for Obama as a vote against Romney, the idea is that JT could actually vote against Romney and then spend his positive vote to Stein.

    Such a system wouldn’t be perfect either, but I think it’d be better than the current one.

    The other thing I remember being discusses was the idea that there should be a formal way of spoiling your vote as an act of protest. This would allow political scientists to statistically distinguish between those who just didn’t show up, and those who cared enough to show up and intentionally spoil their vote. A specific ‘no confidence’ vote would be more valuable information for motivating the major parties than just having x% not showing up.

    In not an American – I’m a Kiwi. But I’d like to have both of those changes made here as well.

    • Baal

      We do have some elections with ranked candidate or instant-run-off voting. You vote 1st choice 2nd choice 3rd choice and if your first choice doesn’t get the majority, that vote is tossed and your 2nd choice vote is counted. In practice this means you get registered as voting for the first person and support for all the candidates is made clear.

      Example: say 25% of people want Stein but in a 2 party system only 5% of them do. The other 20 % says, yeesh, obmama not what we wanted but romney is zombie asshat (go see the Joss Wheaton political add, it’s funny) and vote obama. It looks like Stein has only 5% support. In a ranked system, lets say Stein gets 25% Obama gets 38% and romney 37%. Stein comes in last so that vote is discarded, the 2nd choice of the stein voters breaks down to 24% obama and 1% Romney (idiots – if you want stein, you do not want romney unless you’re rabid racist or a mormon or something). the 2nd round vote is then 62% Obama and 38% r-man + (0% Stein). This has the added benefit of having the 2nd vote have influence and helps the eventually winner look like they have a bigger plurality.

  • Chris Lee

    JT wrote a very well researched and compelling case to vote for President Obama, even though he has disappointed most liberals on many fronts. My only problem with JT’s piece is that he failed to mention how desperately women in this country need Obama to win. If Romney wins, Roe V. Wade will probably fall. Women’s health issues are currently under unprecedented attack from the far-right and allowing someone like Ryan into power threatens to vastly extend the reach of what many see as a movement more rightly called the American Taliban. The Romney?Ryan ticket must be stopped or none of our futures are very secure.

    • Bloke

      Never mind Roe v Wade, the conservatives in the USA want to roll back Griswold. That should be enough to terrify everyone. Without Griswold, you have no right to any form of privacy what so ever, and in the coming few decades a LOT of cases are going to hinge on the concept of a right to privacy.

  • Bill S

    “If Romney wins, Roe V. Wade will probably fall. Women’s health issues are currently under unprecedented attack from the far-right and allowing someone like Ryan into power threatens to vastly extend the reach of what many see as a movement more rightly called the American Taliban.”

    When asked in the VP candidate debate if women should be concerned that Roe v. Wade would be reversed, Ryan responded that the decision should not be with the Supreme Court but with the American people. As riddiculous as that is, I’m sure he would love a chance to make SC appointments that would skew the voting against R. v. W.

    Of the people that could be a heartbeat away from the presidency, Ryan scares me the most.

  • Concerned

    This seems like a very, very liberal website. This is all so one sided. The biggest problem by far facing this country right now – and no other problems even come a close second – is the poor economy. Obama has been poor at best when it comes to the economy. Let’s remember how inexperienced Obama was when he was elected president. He had been on the job as a US Senator for how many days? Less than 2-3 years or so? He has no experience with fixing real economic problems and never really had a real job. He doesn’t know what makes the economy run. And this is the guy who is supposed to fix it? Really? Are you serious? Romney on the other hand is less than the ideal candidate for sure. But he is the one of the two candidates that has the resume to address our country’s biggest concern right now – the economy. He has run a state, the olympics, a huge company, built many successful businesses. To me the choice is very clear. Crystal clear.

  • BDW

    The poor economy can be blamed as much as anything on the Bush administration. Romney’s experience doesn’t necessarily make him more qualified than Obama. It’s one thing to run the Olympics, a company or even a state. It’s another thing to run a country.

    Obama now has more experience as president than Romney. He deserves a chance with a Democratic Congress that won’t work against him every step of the way just to make him look bad.

    • Concerned

      Obama has more experience as president than Romney? Really?? Thanks for stating the obvious. Carter had more experience than Reagan too. This makes no sense. Blame all the economy’s problem on Bush. I’m fine with that. Blame them on whoever you want. It doesn’t matter at all. Completely irrelevant. I don’t remember anyone forcing Obama to run for president. But he did. So now he is responsible to “fix” things going forward no matter who caused the problems – economy, war, taxes, etc. You name it. Our biggest problem is the economy and he has failed miserably. We have another candidate that hands down – at least from his experience and track record – has the best shot at fixing this problem. Do you want to wallow around in this same economy for another 10 years? Ask Japan how that feels. Or do you want someone who knows how to build businesses, has a proven track record of doing so, has solved real world economic problems as a state governor, basically “saved” the Salt Lake winter olympics…. I could go on. He has helped successful businesses thrive. Businesses such as Monsanto, Sports Authority, Dominos, Corning, Burlington and Sealy Corp. These are complex businesses with complex problems. He understands what makes business run and what impedes it. Obama has no such experience that allows him to handle the enormous complexity of economic challenges facing the US right now. Electing Obama again will be a big mistake. It looks as if that is likely going to happen. However, my vote is clearly with Romney for one reason and one reason only. By far, he has the best chance of “fixing” the largest problem facing the US right now – the economy. Let’s get our country back to work and let’s get someone in office that has the resume, and truely understands what it will take, not someone who says he knows, but has demonstrated just the opposite.